For The Week Ending Oct. 25, 2013
USDA PUBLISHES SUMMARIES OF LIVESTOCK PRICES FOR SHUTDOWN PERIOD
USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Services now has available summaries of price and marketing data for various commodities, including pork, for the period the federal government was partially shut down. The shutdown prompted USDA to suspend from Oct. 1 through Oct. 16 publication of its Market News reports, which for livestock are required under the Livestock Mandatory Price Reporting Act. The reports help producers, processors, consumers and distributors in the sale and purchase of agricultural commodities, “providing current and unbiased, price and sales information to assist in [their] orderly marketing and distribution.” Click here for a list of available summaries.
REPORT IGNORES EFFORTS, PROGRESS FOOD-ANIMAL PRODUCERS HAVE MADE
ON ANIMAL WELL-BEING, FOOD SAFETY, ENVIRONMENT, SUSTAINABILITY
A report issued Tuesday from an institution whose namesake is the poster boy for the food police ignores the tremendous progress America’s farmers and ranchers have made in producing safe, affordable food while improving animal well-being, protecting the environment and using animal health products responsibly. The Center for a Livable Future (CLF), which initiated “Meatless Mondays” and is part of the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health – named for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has, for example, banned the sale of large sodas in his city – released an update of a 2008 report from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production that was highly critical of modern animal agriculture. (CLF in 2008 directed the work of the commission.) Composed primarily of members opposed to modern livestock production, the commission called for phasing out certain production practices, banning certain animal antibiotics and placing new restrictions on the use of manure; it said large animal feeding operations are bad for rural economies. The “updated” report claims that that the animal agriculture industry has “made the problems worse” over the past five year in addressing the commission’s concerns. NPPC said that the charges against animal agriculture made in the CLF report – and in the 2008 Pew Commission report – “bear little resemblance to the truth.” The organization pointed out that pork producers and other food-animal producers “have continuously made improvements in animal care, including protecting them from diseases, and we always have been good stewards of the land, air and water we use.” A report issued Monday from the Animal Agriculture Alliance details the efforts and progress animal agriculture has made over more than a decade and belies the CLF report. The AAA, of which NPPC is a member, held a teleconference Tuesday with academic experts to counter the CLF claims. Click here to read the AAA report.
NEW GUIDANCE FOR HUMANE HANDLING OF LIVESTOCK PROPOSED BY USDA
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) this week proposed new guidelines for the humane handling of livestock at processing facilities. The guidance, which comes after a May report from USDA’s Office of Inspector General found numerous flaws in FSIS procedures at packing plants, will assist plants in “developing, implementing, and maintaining a systematic approach to humane handling and slaughter of livestock” to comply with regulatory requirements of the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act and the Federal Meat Inspection Act. The inspection agency says a systematic approach is a “comprehensive way of evaluating how livestock enter and move through an establishment” and includes four steps facilities should take: 1) assess the ability of their livestock handling and slaughter practices to minimize distress and injury to livestock; 2) design facilities and implement handling practices that minimize distress and injury to livestock; 3) periodically evaluate facilities and handling methods to ensure that they continue to minimize distress and injury to livestock; and 4) when necessary, modify facilities and handling methods to ensure that they continue to minimize distress and injury to livestock. FSIS adds that such an approach, coupled with written procedures for, and records of, complying with humane handling and slaughter regulations – and making those available for FSIS review – would give plants a “robust” systematic approach to humane handling. Once the proposed guidance is published in the Federal Register – search for FSIS-2013-0003 – the public will have 60 days in which to submit comments on it.
CHILE ENDS ‘SAFEGUARD’ INVESTIGATION, WON’T RESTRICT PORK IMPORTS
In a big victory for America’s pork producers, Chile this week determined that no action should be taken to limit pork imports, including those from the United States, after concluding an investigation on whether they were harming domestic pork producers. The South American country initiated a “safeguard” investigation in May on all imported frozen pork, including imports from the United States. Under international trade rules, safeguard measures are temporary emergency actions, such as duty increases, against imported products that have caused or threaten to cause serious injury to the importing country’s domestic industry. The Chilean Pork Producers Association alleged that pork imports caused losses to its producers and called for a 14.3 percent additional duty on imported pork. NPPC claimed the charges of harm were unfounded and pleaded the U.S. pork industry’s case against safeguard measures. It pointed out that while U.S. pork exports to Chile have grown over the past eight years, they remain small and stable in relation to pork consumption and production in that country. In fact, although Chilean pork producers continue to account for more than 95 percent of domestic consumption, they also have significantly increased their sales in export markets. After a 90-day investigation to determine whether safeguard measures should be imposed and at what rate, a Chilean commission decided such measures weren’t warranted. Chile has become an important market for U.S. pork since the implementation of the U.S.-Chile Free Trade Agreement in 2005. Last year, Chile was the 12th most valuable export destination for U.S. pork products, totaling almost 17,000 metric tons valued at more than $42 million.
COURT RULES IN FAVOR OF FARMER IN EPA CLEAN WATER ACT CASE
A U.S. District Court judge this week ruled in a favor of a poultry farmer in a Clean Water Act case that could have broad implications for all food-animal producers. Louise Alt challenged a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency compliance order that she obtain a Clean Water Act (CWA) discharge permit because some manure, litter, dander and feathers from her broiler houses were blown by the ventilation fans into the farmyard where precipitation created runoff that was carried into a “water of the United States.” The judge ruled that litter and manure washed away from the Alt property into a nearby creek was an agricultural storm water discharge and not a point source discharge. Agricultural storm water runoff is exempt from the CWA’s requirement that entities that discharge obtain a permit. In its regulation on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), EPA attempted to require large livestock and poultry farms to obtain CWA discharge permits even if they did not discharge. Federal courts twice rejected EPA’s requirement, ruling that the CWA necessitates discharge permits only for entities that actually discharge into a “water of the United States.” During the most recent court case, in which NPPC successfully challenged EPA’s requirement that CAFOs that propose to or that might discharge obtain CWA permits, EPA reached a settlement agreement with environmentalists that required it to develop a database of CAFOs and to publish a guidance document that classified dust and feathers outside of a swine or poultry barn as an unpermitted discharge under the CWA. While the ruling from the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia only applies to Alt’s poultry farm, it will serve as a precedent in other cases challenging EPA’s authority under the CWA.
U.S. PORK ELIGIBLE FOR EXPORT TO BURMA
USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) updated its export library this week to include meat and meat products from swine as eligible for export to Burma (also known as Myanmar). Burma’s acceptance of the FSIS certificate without any conditions is another trade victory for U.S. pork producers and follows a call from NPPC for Burma to open its market to imports of U.S. pork before being accorded U.S. preferential trade benefits. NPPC worked closely with Obama administration trade officials to achieve this result. NPPC expressed concern about possible extension of Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) benefits to Burma without market access for U.S. pork. To obtain GSP treatment, a nation must provide “equitable and reason access to markets.” The Burmese government had restricted imported pork by refusing to issue import permits as a way to protect its domestic livestock producers. Meat consumption in Burma is low large part because of high prices. U.S. pork could help reduce high prices and provide the opportunity for more Burmese to afford meat protein.
CANADA, EUROPEAN UNION CONCLUDE TRADE NEGOTIATIONS
Canada and the European Union (EU) announced last week that they reached an agreement on a bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) that includes market access for Canadian pork. As part of the deal, the EU has agreed to grant Canada a 75,000 metric ton tariff rate quota (TRQ) for ractopamine-free Canadian pork. A TRQ is a system of controls where imports are subject to a low duty rate up to a predetermined quantity, while imports over that quantity are subject to significantly higher duty rates. The United States is also in the process of negotiating an FTA with the European Union. Earlier this year, the U.S. and EU launched negotiations on a comprehensive Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) agreement. NPPC will oppose any trade deal with the EU that does not eliminate all tariffs and all other barriers on U.S. pork. NPPC expects the EU’s tariffs on pork to be completely eliminated just as they have been in the 17 FTAs the United States already has implemented. The EU represents a tremendous market opportunity for U.S. pork exports, with pork consumption totaling 20 million metric tons annually – the second largest market in the world for pork consumption. However, numerous barriers prevent the U.S. pork industry from exporting significant amounts of pork to the EU; in fact, last year the United States exported more pork to Honduras than to the 28-member European Union. Barriers include multiple quotas with high in-quota duties, a ban on the use of ractopamine, mandatory trichinae mitigation, a prohibition on pathogen-reduction treatments and a costly plant approval system. Removal of all EU barriers will significantly increase U.S. pork exports to the EU, creating more than 17,000 U.S. jobs, according to Iowa State University economist Dermot Hayes.
GROUPS SUE FDA FOR RECORDS RELATED TO RACTOPAMINE APPROVAL
Groups opposed to modern animal agriculture recently sued the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to obtain records of its approval of ractopamine, a feed ingredient used to promote leanness in pork and beef. The Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Center for Food Safety filed a complaint in federal court in California, asking that FDA release all records requested by the groups under the Freedom of Information Act. The groups claim that ractopamine can cause a number of problems in people and animals. The feed ingredient was approved by FDA after undergoing rigorous testing for its safety for humans, animals and the environment; 26 other countries have approved ractopamine use in food animals; and the U.N.’s Codex Alimentarius Commission, which sets international standards for food safety, in July 2012 adopted a science-based maximum residue limit (MRL) for ractopamine.
REPORT FINDS FEWER BUT BIGGER HOG FARMS
A USDA report issued Wednesday shows that U.S. hog farm numbers dropped by 70 percent from 1991-2009 while hog inventories remained stable. The result, the report from USDA’s Economic Research Service concludes, has been an industry with larger hog enterprises, increased specialization in a single phase of production, greater reliance on purchased rather than homegrown feed and greater use of production contracts. This structural change has led to higher productivity and lower pork prices. ERS said the declining hog farm numbers during the period suggest that many small, likely high-cost operations ceased production, adding to the average size of hog operations. Click here to read the report.
2014 LOIS BRITT SCHOLARSHIP APPLICATIONS BEING ACCEPTED
NPPC is continuing to accept applications for the 2014 Lois Britt Memorial Pork Industry Scholarship Program, sponsored by the CME Group. Four $2,500 scholarships will be awarded to students pursuing a career in the pork industry. Students should be an undergraduate in a two-year swine program or four-year college of agriculture. Applications should include a letter indicating the student’s role in the pork industry after graduation, an essay of 750 words or less describing and providing solutions to an issue facing the industry today, two letters of reference from current or former professors or industry professionals and a cover sheet that includes name, mailing address, e-mail address, telephone number, school name, year in school and permanent mailing address and telephone number. All of the items should be submitted in a single envelope to: National Pork Producers Council, ATTN: Craig Boelling, PO Box 10383, Des Moines, Iowa 50306. Additional information can be found on NPPC’s website or by calling Craig Boelling at (515) 278-8012.
FARM BILL CONFERENCE COMMITTEE BEGINS WORK NEXT WEEK
Senate and House Agriculture Committee members will meet next week in conference to hammer out a 2013 Farm Bill. House Agriculture panel Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas, R-Okla., will lead the meetings, which begin Wednesday. The major difference between the Senate- and House-passed bills is the amount of cuts in funding for federal food stamps – the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). The Senate measure would cut about $4 billion over the next decade; the House bill calls for almost $40 billion in cuts. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., chairwoman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, said Senate Democrats will oppose SNAP cuts that are much higher than the amount included in the Senate Farm Bill. Both farm bills include provisions beneficial to the U.S. pork industry, including ones that would:
- Establish within USDA an Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs.
- Reauthorize and fund USDA trade promotion programs – the Foreign Market Development Program and the Market Access Program.
- Reduce the number of acres in the Conservation Reserve Program from its current 32 million. The Senate bill calls for a cut to 25 million by 2017, while the House Agriculture Committee’s measure would cut the acres to 24 million by that time.
- Change a trichinae certification program to a trichinae surveillance program.
- Fund research related to livestock, including swine disease surveillance.
- Authorize USDA to conduct a study on the feasibility of implementing a catastrophic insurance program for livestock producers.
Additionally, the House Farm Bill includes provisions that would:
- Prohibit USDA from writing regulations related to livestock contracts under the Grain Inspection and Packers & Stockyards Act.
- Require USDA to conduct an economic analysis of its new rule on country-of-origin labeling of meat.
- Prohibit states from enacting laws that place restrictions on the means of production for agricultural goods that are sold within the states’ borders but produced in other states.
- Require USDA to review U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations that could affect agriculture.
- Prevent federal agencies from giving to third parties personal information of agricultural producers.
The 2008 Farm Bill, which was set to expire at the end of September, was extended until Jan. 15, 2014.
CFTC TO HOLD PUBLIC MEETING TO CONSIDER CUSTOMER PROTECTIONS
The U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) next Wednesday will hold a public meeting at 9:30 a.m. Eastern to consider: improvement to protections offered to customers and customer funds held by futures commission merchants and derivatives clearing organizations; protection of collateral of counterparties to uncleared swaps; treatment of securities in a portfolio margin account in a commodity broker bankruptcy; ownership and control reports; and forms 102/102S, 40/40S and 71. The meeting can be viewed here or heard by calling toll-free 1-866-844-9416 (passcode: CFTC).